by Hazel Larcombe ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 2, 2016
Some entertaining elements, but only the boy gets to play hero.
In this children’s portal-fantasy adventure, 13-year-old twins enter a magic world ruled by a wicked Cyclops.
On the occasion of his 100th birthday on August 8, Great-Granddad Bill tells the amazing story of his and his twin sister Annie’s 13th birthday, when they passed through a portal to rainbow-colored Far-Ago Magic Island. There, Annie and Billy learn from a girl named Egnaro that twins born on the eighth day of the eighth month have great meaning to Far-Ago. She also tells them that all is not well in her homeland: “Although we have riches beyond compare on this beautiful island, we have no freedom.” A wicked, powerful Cyclops called Terominus, who can change his appearance, rules the land. Egnaro invites the twins to explore the island with the protection of a talisman and the dumligo, a multihorned Shetland-pony–like creature that can turn into a magical weapon, which Billy alone can use (and see, along with Terominus). The twins will have helpers, but they must keep in mind certain dangers and prohibitions, such as “Do not, under any circumstance, make eye contact with a kitten named Omenia.” After an attack in which Billy discovers that the dumligo’s horn becomes a large, shiny, magnificent silver sword, he realizes that he must kill the Cyclops to free the islanders. The twins undergo various dangers, such as capture by trolls, but they also find help, and Billy eventually faces his foe. In her debut book, Larcombe uses well-worn tropes like the portal itself, magical helpers and objects, a special destiny, and the hero’s coming-of-age journey. She enlivens this with colorful worldbuilding and a sense of charm, as with the dangerous kitten and a raucous troll celebration. Disappointingly, though, Billy is automatically put in charge of wielding the weapon. He’s a 13-year-old boy, so his physical strength is unlikely to tip the balance. Nevertheless, he’s the hero while Annie is given the dull role of being supportive from the sidelines: “Oh, Billy! You saved us! How brave you are! I wish I could see your wonderful sword.”Some entertaining elements, but only the boy gets to play hero.
Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2016
Page Count: 132
Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2017
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Max Brooks ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020
A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).
A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Pub Date: June 16, 2020
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by John Scalzi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 19, 2023
Fun while it lasts but not one of Scalzi’s stronger books.
Some people are born supervillains, and others have supervillainy thrust upon them.
Charlie Fitzer, a former business journalist–turned–substitute teacher, is broke and somewhat desperate. His circumstances take an unexpected and dangerous turn when his estranged uncle Jake dies, leaving his business—i.e., his trillion-dollar supervillain empire—to Charlie. Charlie doesn’t really have the skills or experience to manage the staff of the volcano lair, and matters don’t improve when he’s pressured to attend a high-level meeting with other supervillains, none of whom got along with his uncle. With the aid of his uncle’s No. 1, Mathilda Morrison, and his cat, Hera (who turns out to be an intelligent and typing-capable spy for his uncle’s organization), Charlie must sort out whom he can trust before he gets blackmailed, blown up, or both. This book serves as a follow-up of sorts to Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society (2022) in that both are riffs on genre film tropes. The current work is fluffier and sillier than the previous novel and, indeed, many of Scalzi’s other books, although there is the occasional jab about governments being in bed with unscrupulous corporate enterprises or the ways in which people can profit from human suffering. This is one of many available stories about a good-hearted Everyman thrust into fantastical circumstances, struggling to survive as a fish out of water, and, while well executed for its type, the plot doesn’t go anywhere that will surprise you.Fun while it lasts but not one of Scalzi’s stronger books.
Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023
Page Count: 272
Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023
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